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Reyes v. City of West Sacramento

September 25, 2009

VICTORIA REYES, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF WEST SACRAMENTO, AND DOES 1 TO 50, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Morrison C. England, Jr. United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Defendant City of West Sacramento ("Defendant" of "City") moves for summary judgment in this case on grounds that Plaintiff Victoria Reyes ("Plaintiff") has not shown an unconstitutional policy or custom giving rise to Defendant's liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's Motion will be granted.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff filed this lawsuit on May 30, 2008, alleging that law enforcement officers employed by Defendant violently threw her to the ground while taking her into custody as a fugitive exactly a year earlier, on May 30, 2007. According to Plaintiff, she was pregnant at the time of the May 30, 2007 arrest. As a result of the excessive force employed by the officers, Plaintiff claims she ultimately miscarried her unborn child on August 28, 2007.

Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, filed June 9, 2008, names the City of West Sacramento, only, and contains a single cause of action, for so-called Monell liability*fn1 in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Specifically, the Amended Complaint asserts that the City had a custom or policy "to have its officers use violent means to take fugitives like plaintiff into custody." Am. Compl., ¶ 14.

On October 31, 2008, Defendant propounded interrogatories requesting that Plaintiff identify the specific policies or customs supporting her claim against the City. (Def.'s Statement of Undisputed Fact ("SUF") No. 4). In response to that discovery, Plaintiff provided answers on February 11, 2009, some eight months after she filed this lawsuit, indicating that it was simply her "belief" that Defendant had a custom, policy or practice of using unnecessary and excessive force when taking fugitives into custody. Id.

Defendant now moves for summary judgment on grounds that Plaintiff's professed belief, without more, cannot support her claim. According to Defendant, Plaintiff has produced no evidence to support her Monell claim against the City. (DeNardo Decl., ¶ 5).

In opposition to Defendant's Motion, Plaintiff argues that the City's failure to discipline the officers involved in her arrest is enough to show the requisite custom, policy or practice for purposes of surviving summary judgment. The City's internal affairs investigation of the incident found Plaintiff's allegations against the officers in question to be unfounded. (Zal Decl., Ex. 1, p. 4).

STANDARD

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide for summary judgment when "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). One of the principal purposes of Rule 56 is to dispose of factually unsupported claims or defenses. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986).

Under summary judgment practice, the moving party "always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of 'the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file together with the affidavits, if any,' which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact."

Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986) (quoting Rule 56(c).

If the moving party meets its initial responsibility, the burden then shifts to the opposing party to establish that a genuine issue as to any material fact actually does exist. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 585-587 (1986); First Nat'l Bank v. Cities Ser. Co., 391 U.S. 253, 288-289 (1968).

In attempting to establish the existence of this factual dispute, the opposing party must tender evidence of specific facts in the form of affidavits, and/or admissible discovery material, in support of its contention that the dispute exists. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e). The opposing party must demonstrate that the fact in contention is material, i.e., a fact that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law, and that the dispute is genuine, i.e., the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty ...


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